Creating an education system that will enable every child to have access to quality public education has been this Administration's number one priority. Bill Clinton and Al are also committed to making sure that parents have the opportunity and the support to be fully involved in their children's education. That is why, in his State of the Union address this year, President Clinton asked Congress to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act so that parents can take time off when they have to go see their children's teacher or take them to the doctor. No parent should have to choose between their children's health and education and keeping their job.
And while parents are at work, they should not have to worry if their children are safe after they leave school. We know that children are most likely to get into trouble between the hours of 3:00 and 7:00p.m. President Clinton and my husband are fighting to invest $1 billion to create quality after school programs and open up schools to insure that children have a safe, nurturing place to go during the hours when they are most at risk.
Our education agenda has seen the largest investment in education in thirty years, and I am proud to say that Tennessee has been one of the main beneficiaries. This year alone, we are investing more than $76 million in Head Start, $128 million helping students from our most disadvantaged communities succeed, and $128 million in Pell Grants that combined with our tuition tax credits and other financial aid programs will help insure that the question families face is not "if" their children can afford to go to college but "where."
And in the budget submitted to Congress for next year, President Clinton asked for an additional $5 million for each of these programs. We are committed to fighting for Tennessee's interests in education and every other issue important to our children and families.
However we know that government cannot insure our children's education alone. We need the leadership and hard work of organizations like PACE to get the job done. We share your commitment to encouraging family and community involvement in education.
We also understand how difficult it is for working parents to make the time to be involved in all the activities that come along. I want to share with you a story that illustrates how Al and I had to tackle this problem. One evening at the dinner table, our son Albert asked Al and I which one of us would be going with him to Play Day at school the next day. Unfortunately, this was the first time that either of us had heard about this and both of us had events scheduled the next day. Al was scheduled to meet with the head of a foreign nation. I was scheduled to do a live radio interview. After discussing it, Al decided that his meeting was probably easier to switch than mine -- the foreign head of state was a father too so he understood! Al and Albert won the three-legged race the next day, incidentally!
But the common reality is that all too often, there is not enough of a connection between a student's home and school. Parents struggling to balance work and family may find it difficult to find the time in their already overloaded schedule to stay in touch with their children's school, classroom teacher, counselor, or principal. And for overworked teachers, that call from the parent may feel like an intrusion, rather than an invitation to work together on a joint mission -- the education of a child.
However, we all know that when parents and families get personally involved in their children's learning, their children do better in school. Just a few weeks ago, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company announced the results of a new study that found that teachers are relying on parents to be more involved in their children's education. It also discovered that 9 out of 10 students who get "A's" and "B's" are encouraged by their parents to de well in school. On the other hand, half the students who receive grades lower than "C" do not have their parent's help with their homework and 27 percent do not receive any encouragement from their parents.
But parents cannot do it alone. They need everyone in their community playing there part as well. Schools can join the President's America Reads Challenge and start a reading tutoring program with community volunteers. Teachers can hold sessions that provide parents with the basic concepts and techniques they need to have the confidence and knowledge to help their children with homework. Colleges and universities can reach out to children from disadvantaged communities and help them think about and prepare for college by taking the right courses and finishing high school. Businesses can introduce the world of work to young students and help them connect what they do in the classroom to real life on the job.
You are setting a wonderful example for Tennessee and the nation with your efforts such as the Hand in Hand initiative that reaches out and mentors at-risk youth and your brochure, Five Easy Steps to Prepare Your Child for Success in Kindergarten, that helps busy parents get their children off to a good start in school.
All across America, our children are entering a new and rapidly changing economy. It is an economy that is driven by information, research and technology. An economy that values knowledge and productivity above all else. It is an economy that holds out of promise of a life full of excitement and prosperity -- but only if they prepare for it. And all of us have a vested interest and duty to help guide them safely into the future. And I know that with your hard work and that of the many people who will join you this fall, our children will have the skills, knowledge and confidence they will need to succeed as the workers, parents and leaders in the 21st Century.
Thank you again for all of your hard work. You are making a difference in the lives of children.